Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Counselor Education

Major Professor

Shawn L. Spurgeon

Committee Members

Marianne R. Woodside, Gary J. Skolits, Dawn M. Szymansk


African American women are a rapidly growing population on college campuses. Though enrollment trends suggest an increase in African American women’s pursuit of educational attainment, they face unique challenges and obstacles (National Center for Education Statistics, 2011). Researchers have noted that stressful life events have detrimental effects on the emotional, physical, and mental well-being of college students (Greer & Brown, 2011; Reynolds, Sneva, & Beehler, 2010; Hall et al., 2006; Larson, 2006; Andrews & Wilding, 2004; Nonis et al., 1998; Shapiro et al., 1998; Cohen & Herbert, 1996; Van Eck et al., 1996). Research focused on the unique challenges of African American college women face at Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs) is limited. The purpose of this qualitative study was to understand how African American women experience stressors and the ways in which they cope with stressors at a PWI. Using a constructivist grounded theory approach (Charmaz, 2006), the researcher investigated the experiences of five African American college women at a PWI. Qualitative analysis of interviews revealed four major themes related to coping with stressors: support, connection, perseverance, and integration. Implications for policy and practice are considered and suggestions and recommendations for future research are provided.

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